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Six draft picks signed by Bills

Six of the nine members of the Bills' 2012 draft class will be under contract Friday when the team opens rookie minicamp.

The Bills announced tonight the signings of the following players: outside linebacker Nigel Bradham (fourth round), cornerback Ron Brooks (fourth round), offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders (fifth round), linebacker Tank Carder (fifth round), offensive lineman Mark Asper (sixth round) and kicker John Potter (seventh round).

That leaves first-round pick Stephon Gilmore, the cornerback from South Carolina, Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn (second round) and North Carolina St. wide receiver T.J. Graham (third round) as the team's drafted players still unsigned.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

Florence lands on feet

Recently released Bills cornerback Drayton Florence didn't take long to find a new job - and it's a good one.

Florence has signed with the Denver Broncos, according to ProFootballTalk.com. Florence is a consummate professional, and it's good to see him go to a team that has a good chance to go to the playoffs. Denver, with new QB Peyton Manning, figures to be the favorite to repeat as AFC West titlist. Florence has not been to the playoffs in five years, since he was with San Diego in 2007.

According to ProFootballTalk, Florence will make $3 million this year, and his deal is worth $4.5 million over two years, with another $1 million in incentives. He was due to make $4 million this year had he made the Bills' roster. Denver has 33-year-old star Champ Bailey at one cornerback spot. The Broncos four-year veteran Tracy Porter from New Orleans in free agency. Porter started the past three years but has had some durability issues, missing 10 games the past three years. It's a good spot for Florence.

---Mark Gaughan

 

 

 

Mel Kiper on Glenn, Graham

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper did a conference call with reporters this afternoon. Kiper gave the Buffalo Bills a generally positive review for their draft. He put a B-minus grade on both the Bills and the Patriots. (The other two AFC East teams, the Jets and Dolphins, got a C grade). Kiper wrote "It was a pretty good weekend for Buddy Nix and the Bills."

However, Kiper does not see second-round pick Cordy Glenn of Georgia as an NFL left tackle. The Bills are adamant that it's his best position as a pro. I asked Kiper to expand on his views on Glenn and third-round pick T.J. Graham, the speed receiver from North Carolina State.

Kiper on Glenn: "I’m a big Cordy Glenn supporter. I have been. I’ve had him in my top 20, 25 all year. To get him at 41 is a great pick. I just said this on draft day. When you look at them and say he’s a guard, well, they’re OK at guard. They got (Erik) Pears at right tackle. Left tackle is (Chris) Hairston. That’s where they want him to challenge. I don’t think he can hold up at left tackle. We’ll see. That’s something you’ll have to see about. He did this year at Georgia. But I think the best scenario would be right tackle or guard. The great thing about this is even if he doesn’t get it done at left tackle, you can move him to right tackle or guard. … Either way, he’s going to find the field. So it’s a great pick for that reason. I just would have a different opinion on his ability to be a left tackle at the pro level on a game-to-game basis."

Kiper on Graham: "When you put his speed on the board he’d be one of the top guys, and that’s what what they were looking at. Right before the draft, I thought (the Bills would pick) Michael Floyd. But they wanted a speed guy. They wanted a complement to Stevie Johnson, a fast guy. Then you looked at the fastest guys, and T.J. Graham is right there. He ran a 4.35 at the combine. He could get a little stronger. He’s a good athlete, no question about that. Legitimate speed merchant. He’s got the ability in the return game, he showed that. But will he be consistent enough catching the ball? We’ll have to wait and see on that. I thought he could be a fourth, fifth receiver, be your primary return man. The key is going t be can he help a team as a receiving entity. He has a big average per-catch. … The guy has put up decent numbers overall. … When you have somebody that fast – and he’s got good size, he’s almost 190 pounds, almost 6 feet tall – I think T.J. Graham, for what they wanted, has shown flashes at the wide receiver position. He’s a return man. He’s got speed. I’m not going to argue with that. Was it a little earlier than I thought? Probably a round or two, but at the end of the day, they wanted a speed guy and they got one of the guys who could really stretch it."

---Mark Gaughan

Bills prospects at No. 41 (OT, WR?)

Here's a look at some of the top prospects still on the NFL Draft board at positions of interest for the Buffalo Bills. Offensive tackle or wide receiver figure to be two prime options for the Bills.

LEFT TACKLE: *Cordy Glenn (Georgia), Jonathan Martin (Stanford), **Mike Adams (Ohio State).

RECEIVER: *Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech), Rueben Randle (LSU), Brian Quick (Appalachian State), Alshon Jeffrey (South Carolina).

PASS RUSHER: Vinny Curry (Marhsall), Andre Branch (Clemson).

LINEBACKER: Lavonte David (Nebraska), Bobby Wagner (Utah State).

*-Glenn and Hill are the most likely to be taken before No. 41.

**-Adams tested positive for marijuana use at the NFL Scouting Combine and had off-field issues even before that. He's a prime talent, but we suspect the Bills will shy away from him.

It looks like there are three possible spots in the first eight picks where a tackle could go. St. Louis, which has picks 33 and 39, is possible. But the Rams arguably need a receiver and a cornerback more than they need a tackle. Baltimore is possible at No. 35. But the Ravens could use a receiver, a center (Peter Konz) or a linebacker (Courtney Upshaw), too.

Here's a forecast for the first eight:

33. ST. LOUIS - Glenn or Hill. 34. INDIANAPOLIS - TE Coby Fleener or DL or LB.

35. BALTIMORE - Upshaw, Konz, WR or OT. 36. DENVER - DT, CB, RB, TE, QB.

37. CLEVELAND - WR is top priority. OL an outside shot. 38. JACKSONVILLE - pass rusher.

39. ST.LOUIS - WR, CB, OL. 40. CAROLINA - DT is most likely.

In summary, there's a good chance Martin will be available. He would fill the biggest need. ... I believe somebody would take Glenn before 41. Randle is big and fast. Appalachian State's Quick is big and has decent speed. Some draftniks think No. 41 might be a little high for him. But he would be a good pick. I don't see Jeffrey as having enough speed for the Bills' tastes, but he's good. Pass rusher isn't a need, but if Curry were at 41 he'd be very tempting. Other tackle candidates? Auburn's Bobby Massie is good, but he's a right tackle. Troy's James Brown is a left-tackle candidate but he might be available in the third round. Illinois' Jeff Allen is a left tackle candidate but there will be higher-rated players on the board.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Buffalo ranks 5th in draft TV rating

The Buffalo television market ranked fifth in the country in terms of percentage of households watching ESPN's coverage of the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday. ESPN had a rating of 7.3 in Buffalo, meaning 7.3 percent of all households with a television were tuned in (whether the TV in the house was turned on or not). The top ESPN market was Cleveland (10.7), followed by Birmingham, Ala. (10.5), Dayton, Ohio (8.3) and Columbus, Ohio (7.3). Of course more households in each market were watching the draft, as well, because it also was on NFL Network.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills have legit shot to move up

The Minnesota Vikings may not get a better offer than the one the Buffalo Bills appear ready to make for the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Bills' interest in Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil is legitimate, a source tells The News. Charley Casserly of the NFL Network reported Wednesday night the Bills are willing to part with the No. 41 pick and flip first-round spots to move up.

The more one looks at the top of the draft board, the more it looks like the Bills have a good chance to move up, with the Vikings or someone else, to get Kalil.

Obviously there could be a team waiting in the wings to make a last-minute pitch for the third pick. But the prospects at the top of the draft board and the needs of the top six teams do not suggest the Vikings are going to create a bidding war for No. 3.

Quarterback is the most likely target of a team looking to move up into the top five. Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill is the No. 3 QB in the draft. But none of the top six, based on all the reports out there, are interested in Tannehill. Cleveland could make a case for Tannehill. But the Browns reportedly are set to take a much surer bet, Alabama running back Trent Richardson. It says here it would be a huge mistake for the Browns to risk the No. 4 pick on a QB who has just 19 college starts (Tannheill's total). Cleveland probably can not risk moving down if its heart is set on Richardson. But if Cleveland would be just as happy with a receiver, the Browns could move down to No. 10 and hope for Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.

Tampa, at No. 5, needs a cornerback, a linebacker or a running back. The Bucs can sit right there and get either LSU corner Morris Claiborne or Boston College LB Luke Kuechly. Don't expect the Bucs to move. St. Louis is No. 6 and desperately needs a wideout for QB Sam Bradford. The Rams had a league-low nine - NINE - TD passes last season. There is speculation the Rams could use an offensive tackle, which is why the Bills would want to move ahead of them in a bid for Kalil. Would the Rams pass up Oklahoma State stud WR Justin Blackmon in favor of Kalil? I say no. The Rams have two high picks playing tackle in Rodger Saffold and Justin Smith. Both were well regarded entering last season. Both struggled badly in the deep-drop offense of Josh McDaniels, who now is back in New England. Saffold and Smith are better than they showed last year and will be better with better coaching, which Jeff Fisher will provide. The Rams need a wideout. They could, however, move back in the draft and still aim for Floyd. They're a trade partner for the Bills, too, if the Vikings don't want to pull the trigger on a move down to No. 10.

Then we get to No. 7, Jacksonville, which is eager to trade down. Lots of teams could be calling the Jaguars for a move up for any number of players. There is speculation Philadelphia might move up to No. 7 to get defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Some other team could make a move with the Jags for Tannehill. Failing that, Tannehill still would be on the board for Miami at No. 8, the most logical destination for the Texas A&M QB. Nevertheless, if a team wants Tannehill, why move up to No. 3? 

There are at least two prime ways a Bills bid to move up breaks down. One is if the Browns are going to pull a surprise. The other is if the trade partner isn't confident about what it will get at the No. 10 spot. Minnesota needs a corner or a receiver (in addition to a tackle). One would think either CB Stephon Gilmor or Floyd will be there at No. 10. Cleveland needs a WR (Floyd?). St. Louis needs a WR (Floyd?).

Round One promises to be an evening of intrigue.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Report: Bills have eyes for Kalil

The Buffalo Bills need a left tackle, and the 10th spot in the draft doesn't look like the most perfect place to get one. With that in mind, an NFL Network report tonight that the Bills would be interested in moving up to get Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil makes some sense for Buffalo.

According to former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, analyst for the NFL Network and CBS Sports, the Bills would be willing to give up their second round pick (No. 41 overall) in order to make the move up to get the top-rated left tackle in the draft.

Minnesota, with the No. 3 pick, has been pegged as the destination for Kalil for months. However, the Vikings have made it known they would be willing to move down. In addition, the Vikings' need for a cornerback and a receiver are just as great, if not greater, than their need for a tackle. The Vikings' pass defense was horrible last season, and they play in a division with star passers Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay, Matt Stafford of Detroit and Jay Cutler of Chicago. Speculation in recent days has centered on the possibility of the Vikings taking cornerback Morris Claiborne of Louisiana State at No. 3 instead of Kalil.

Minnesota might be able to get the second best cornerback (South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore) or the second best receiver (Notre Dame's Michael Floyd) if it moved back to No. 10. On the other hand, if the Vikings opt for Claiborne, Kalil probably would fall to at least No. 6 (St. Louis) or No. 7 (Jacksonville). There's a slight chance he could fall farther than that.

Moving up and giving up a prime draft choice would be out of character for Bills General Manager Buddy Nix, who covets draft picks like gold. However, Nix acknowledged last week that the best left tackles come very early in the draft.

"There are a high percentage of them that’s drafted in the top 10 - left tackles," Nix said. "Again, don’t read into that, but most of the starters in this league, especially Pro-Bowlers, were taken in the first eight or nine picks."

If the Bills can't or won't move up for Kalil, their best option at left tackle likely will be Georgia's Cordy Glenn, a 346-pounder who switched from guard to left tackle for his senior year and improved as the season went on. The problem in that scenario, however, is that the Bills probably would not be sticking to their draft board by taking Glenn 10th. It's likely they would have higher rated players available above him, such as Gilmore, Floyd, Alabama safety Mark Barron or Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.

How much competition might the Bills face in seeking to move up? Speculation for months on the trade-up prospects has centered on teams that might want to move up to get the third best quarterback in the draft, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. Some team might want to make the Vikings an offer for him. However, it does not look like there will be much action for other teams moving up to try to get Kalil.

Thursday's first round promises a lot of intrigue, whichever route the Bills take.

---Mark Gaughan

 

 

 

BuffaloNews.com is your home for live NFL draft coverage

Join BuffaloNews.com and its deep roster of sports reporters and columnists for live coverage of the NFL draft Thursday and Friday nights.

* Live video Webcast beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, hosted by Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham) and Jay Skurski (@JaySkurski).

* Reports from One Bills Drive from Mark Gaughan (@gggaughan), Jerry Sullivan (@TBNSully), Bob DiCesare and Lauren Mariacher (@Lolo_Nicole).

* Additional analysis from Bucky Gleason (@TBNbucky) and Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington), and segments featuring Sports Editor Lisa Wilson (@lisabellwilson) and Milt Northrop.

* A live chat with input from a wide array of News sports reporters.

* A running ticker with the latest picks, as well as Mark Gaughan's best available players remaining at each position.

* Updates from @TBNSports with #tbndraft.

* Live video coverage of the second and third rounds begins at 6 p.m. Friday.

Moody on top SEC prospects

Bills veteran scout Darrell Moody answered questions from the media at One Bills Drive today, the last day the team made its regional scouts available heading into the 2012 NFL Draft. Moody was a 31-year coaching veteran before joining Bills General Manager Buddy Nix as a scout with the San Diego Chargers in 2002. He re-joined Nix with the Bills in 2010. Moody's coaching career included stops at North Carolina State, Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State, Appalachian State, Tulane, North Carolina and Clemson.

Here were his comments in response to questions about some of the top Southeastern Conference propsects in the draft:

On South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore: “I think he’s a physical player. He’s got excellent size, and he has a good body of work. He’s been a three-year starter. I think he has played well against the run and played well against the pass, bump and Cover 2 and off-man and off-zone. I think he’s a complete player.”

On Alabama safety Mark Barron: “I think he’s a complete football player. He has an excellent body of work. He’s been a productive player in a very good league. He has been a leader on a very good football team. He’s physical against the run. He can play the run from the strong safety position and he can also move into the linebacker position in your dime package. I think he’s got good cover skills against tight ends and running backs, and I think he’s adequate against wide receivers. He’s like most safeties in coverage. You’d like to have a little help behind him against elite receivers. But I think his cover skills for a safety are real good.”

On Georgia tackle-guard Cordy Glenn: “He struggled early. He had been playing guard the majority of his career. They went through a process at Georgia where they had been knocked around a couple years in the SEC and they decided they were going to become a bigger, more physical football team. … I think as the season progressed and him moving to left tackle, I think he adjusted to it and I think their whole offensive line - at the end of the year they were probably one of the better offensive lines in the Southeastern Conference. I think they all made a lot of progress and adjusted to their size. I don’t see any reason he can’t play left tackle in this league because he’s got size, he’s got length and he’s got pretty good footwork. It’s hard to get around somebody that big and with that length.”

On Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw: "I think he can set the edge against the run. he's strong and physical against the run. He's more of a power pass rusher than a speed pass rusher. Most of the time with the elite pass rushers are speed rushers. i think he'll be a solid pass rusher. ... You know waht you're going to get every day. he's a blue-collar, lunch-pail guy who's going to bring what he's got every day."

On Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick: "Dre has got good size. he's physcial vs. the run. i think he's a good tackler. He's got good coverage skills. At times he can guess a little, which most good cover corners can do that. You just gotta make sure you guess at the right time." ... Asked why Kirkpatrick didn't intercept many passes, Moody said: "I would say his hands are average, I don't think they're great. And they probably don't throw as much in his area as they do in other areas, and the Alabama defense gets a lot of sacks."

---Mark Gaughan

 

 

Scout's take: Majeski on Kuechly and Adams

In the days leading up to the draft, the Bills are making their scouts available to the media. On Monday, Doug Majeski, Brad Forsyth and Shawn Heinlen took their turn. Majeski, the team’s coordinator of college scouting, covers the Midwest and East Coast. Forsyth has the Rocky Mountain and West Coast parts of the country, while Heinlen oversees Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Over the next couple days, I’ll pass along some of their takes on players who the Bills could potentially be targeting heading into the draft, starting with Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Here’s what Majeski had to say when asked whether Kuechly could transition to either the strongside or weakside linebacker spot in Buffalo’s new 4-3 scheme: “He’s played weak and inside middle linebacker at BC and he’s actually played all three spots in games over his career. Mentally, obviously, he’s very sharp. He’ll be able to handle it. Athletically he can handle a lot of the attributes of each position and he’s probably best as a ‘mike,’ but he gives you flexibility to play ‘will’ or ‘sam.’

Majeski then elaborated on Kuechly’s ability to play the pass.

“He’s really a good coverage guy. He’s got a good feel for it, got good awareness. He can run with tight ends in man, he can carry receivers down the field. He does a good job of getting in throwing lanes. … He’s good in coverage.”

Majeski also shared some thoughts on Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams, who reportedly tested positive for marijuana use at the scouting combine.

"Very talented. He’s a big man, 6-foot-7, 325 [pounds]. Obviously missed some games this year because of the NCAA suspension, but when he played, he played well," Majeski said. "He’s got a lot of ability. Still has room to get better as far as strength and [his] experience, but he should have a good future.

Majeski said the positive test would factor into the Bills' thinking about any prospect.

"With all these kids it’s a concern. It’s things we talk about," he said. "That [and] with other character concerns, whether it’s mental or other issues, you know it’s all part of our discussion when we talk about a player. It affects how you look at a player."

...

Join The Buffalo News for extensive live coverage during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night.

Watch a live broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m., follow a ticker with draft selections and join a live chat.

The News' deep roster of sports reporters and columnists will be situated in the newsroom and at One Bills Drive to bring you the latest developments.

Myself and Tim Graham are anchoring the draft webcast from One News Plaza, with additional insight from Mike Harrington and Bucky Gleason.

Mark Gaughan, Jerry Sullivan, Bob DiCesare and Lauren Mariacher will be at One Bills Drive to get reaction from the Bills' front office.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

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